Seth Godin’s advice to innovators and disruptors out there

Posted on December 7, 2008

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Pre-steal this book

This is a long, rambling story with a useful punchline. I posted it on a weekend so you could skip it without feeling guilty. Thanks to my friend Michael for reminding me.

Twenty five years ago, I led the creation of a line of computer adventure games in conjunction with major science fiction and mystery authors. Ray Bradbury, Michael Crichton, Erle Stanley Gardner’s estate, etc.

Gregor Schuster of Photographers Choice, in Getty Images

Photo credit: Gregor Schuster of Photographer's Choice, in Getty Images

One night, I took Harry Harrison out drinking (he drank, I drove). After a few tequilas, Harry announced, “I don’t speak to Crichton!” Intrigued, I asked why not. I thought he was a perfectly nice guy.

“Well,” Harry said, “I actually have never met him, but if I did meet him, I’d shun him.”

It turns out that Harry had spent six months writing a science fiction novel about a virus that comes from space and wipes out a small town. As he was finishing it, The Andromeda Strain came out and was a mammoth bestseller. Harrison had to throw his manuscript in the trash. He said he was angry that even though Crichton had never heard of or seen his work, he had pre-stolen it. It’s entirely possible that Crichton had spent time imagining what Harry and authors like him would have written next… and then written it.

So, what’s keeping you from pre-stealing my next book, or Malcolm’s? Why not pre-steal the next great innovation from Kevin Kelly or someone else you admire?

The market rarely rewards off-the-charts creativity that comes from another solar system. It’s more likely that a successful innovation is already in the works somewhere. Just think like them but be bolder and faster.

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Who is Seth Godin? Here is his official website.

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